I learned of Agnes B's clothing while in college and studying abroad back in the '70's. Somehow, even then, I knew to appreciate her simple French designs for women. It wasn't until I was much older, however, that I was able to purchase a few of her pieces for myself, and I truly treasure them. It seems that many of Agnes B's stores are closing around the country, but here's to hoping that she can continue here in New York.
At times, living in New York City can become a bit chaotic - and it is this moment when Muji feels like a breath of fresh air. So different from our busy and cluttered apartments, Muji is the epitome of minimalist class. There is no rhyme or reason to what items are carried, and yet, while there are a million trinkets to browse through, the atmosphere remains effortlessly crisp and clean. Everything is made in neutral colors and simple materials, and labeled with clear descriptions. After wandering around I suddenly had the urge to go home and clean everything out of my closet and start fresh. The store has a definite calming and almost meditative effect on people. The vast variety of items includes furniture, clothing, home goods - and yet everything feels unified. Some of the hidden treasures can be found within the office supplies - pens that glide beautifully across the page and notebooks that rival Moleskine for utility and sophistication, but at a fraction of the price. Even the clothes are in soft, soothing colors, but made from fine fabrics and sold at very reasonable prices. Step inside to escape the bustle of the city, and do not be surprised if you leave with a new toothbrush or a pair of slippers.
Tucked in the middle of all of the high end antique furniture stores on this stretch of 10th Street is a European shop that has a women's line of relaxed, natural fiber clothing reminiscent of an upscale Eileen Fisher boutique. In addition to the fashion in Eskandar's expansive space, they have a carefully curated, eclectic selection of home furnishings including dishes, glassware, flatware, candles, and books.
Beneath the Spanish Benevolent Society lies La Nacional, one of Manhattan’s most authentic Spanish restaurants and the most easily accessible part of the society. Just by walking down the steps into the dimly lit basement lounge, we felt the bustle of 14th street quickly recede and we were transported across the ocean. La Nacional has the same relaxed, no frills atmosphere as most tapas bars in Spain. We gazed at the old photographs from the society’s earlier years on the walls and then had the option of sipping a drink at the bar, sampling some classic simple Spanish tapas such as tortilla de patatas, croquetas or chorizo, or dining on a full meal of paella. Perhaps the most authentic option, though, was to simply have a seat by the television to watch the fútbol game - it is always on. For visitors from Spain who want a taste of home, those of us pining for the Spanish travels of our past, or New Yorkers simply curious about a new culture, La Nacional is the place to go.
Today, Shareen Mitchell is a bicoastal business owner, a sought-after entrepreneur with fourteen employees and a celebrity following. But no one would have guessed it eleven years ago, when Shareen was, in her own words, “broke, in debt, and selling at a flea market. ” That flea market booth soon grew into a 7, 000 square foot vintage warehouse in LA, and within a few years, Shareen had expanded to New York City. In spite of her success, Shareen’s location on West 17th Street is one of the best-kept secrets in Manhattan. Hidden away on the second floor of an old walk-up, the only sign of its existence is a red dress hanging from the fire escape, and sometimes—like the day I visited—not even that. Fortunately, a friendly employee from the salon next door pointed me in the right direction, but if I had not been in the know, I would have missed Shareen entirely. This secret location may seem like a bad business decision, but it is actually one of the keys to Shareen’s success. Her stores have always fostered a sense of exclusivity, and Shareen told me that her warehouse, especially in the early days, was not only the hottest vintage store in LA, but also a gathering place for a society of hip young women. “It was a crazy, fun secret, ” she told me. “No one knew where they were getting their vintage. ”Because there are no dressing rooms at Shareen—women change out in the open—both store locations have the same “no boys allowed” policy. But the resemblance between Shareen’s two stores ends there. While the LA warehouse is constantly buzzing with youthful energy, the New York location has a quiet, sophisticated feel that caters to a slightly older crowd. The reason for the difference, Shareen explained, is that by 2009, many of her original customers at the LA warehouse were now young professionals living in New York City. “They told me there was nothing like Shareen in the city, ” she said, “so I decided to test the waters. ” She opened a shop in a train station parking lot on Long Island, above an auto shop. “People like Ivanka Trump would get off the train, ” she told me, laughing, “and walk into this auto shop with their dogs and babies and everything. ” But after a while, the trip to Long Island became exhausting, and Shareen decided to open a location in the city. “It was kind of a secret, ” she said. “I had no money for a sign, so I put the red dress out on the fire escape. ”Though she did not put much effort into the store’s exterior, Shareen transformed the inside. The former apartment is now an elegant retail space, filled with ornate mirrors and old-fashioned couches, and yet it still manages to feel warm and welcoming. One large room is devoted entirely to wedding dresses, while another two rooms are filled with vintage clothing of all kinds, from evening gowns to 1950s prom dresses. When I asked Shareen about the bridal section, she told me that the store is in the process of transitioning. “A lot of my clients are starting to get married, ” she told me, “but they don’t want to look like traditional brides. ” These young women, many of whom get married in unorthodox venues—upstate farms, Brooklyn lofts, and Manhattan rooftops—are looking for unique dresses that will express their personalities. Over the past few years, the demand for these “indie wedding dresses” has grown so much that Shareen predicts that the store may soon be entirely bridal. “A year ago, we were half bridal and half vintage, and now it’s more like seventy-thirty, ” Shareen told me. “We’re double-booked on the weekends with brides. ”The New York location may be transitioning into bridal wear, but Shareen insisted that the store will not abandon its vintage roots. Along with her bridal collection, which is all under $2, 000, many of the wedding dresses for sale in the store are reworked vintage. Shareen added that her collection is designed to flatter all kinds of body types, to celebrate women rather than inhibit them. She always tells her brides, “I want to see you looking beautiful, not you in a beautiful dress. ”
For the modern gent who appreciates vintage boots, jackets, denim, flannel shirts, bags, belts, hats and much more, we have found a phenomenal shop. On our journey across 13th Street, we were thrilled to uncover this truly vintage collection of menswear. Melissa Howard is the proprietor, and she has made a fantastic effort to carefully curate each bit of space. Our conversation with her convinced us that she is an expert in her field, and there is no doubt that she recognizes her store is a rare find. Stock's clothing, which is fittingly housed in a building that dates back to the 1800s, consists of pieces from the same period through the 1950s. This is certainly a go-to for those in the market for something salvaged and special, handed down from the working class men of last century. Melissa has been in the vintage clothing business since a young age and was inspired by her mom, who runs an antique store in Michigan. Melissa has recently expanded her collection to include women’s and children’s clothing as well, carrying a wonderful array of shirts and jackets. She told us that she is looking forward to designing her own line of vintage-inspired clothing with a great team of people and selling them to her customers, who are sprinkled all over the world.
Established in Brooklyn in 1997, this vintage store purchases and sells clothing and shoes. Drop by any day of the week during store hours and bring in unwanted clothing that is in good condition. The staff at Beacon is happy to assess your items and give you either 35% cash on the retail value that they decide on, or a 55% credit towards shopping in their store.